USA/Indien — Flournoy Notes India’s Growing Role as Security Partner

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2010 — India is an increas­ing­ly impor­tant part­ner to the Unit­ed States, and the rela­tion­ship between the nations is matur­ing, a top Defense Depart­ment pol­i­cy offi­cial said today.

Michele Flournoy, under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, told mem­bers of the Asia Soci­ety that the coop­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Unit­ed States and India grows out of shared val­ues and shared inter­ests.

Defense coop­er­a­tion between the nations served as a cat­a­lyst for the increas­ing­ly close rela­tion­ship, and Defense Depart­ment offi­cials are work­ing to expand mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary ties, she said.

India has become an impor­tant eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal and secu­ri­ty part­ner, and that part­ner­ship spans a range of inter­ests, Flournoy told the group.

“Some crit­ics in Wash­ing­ton and New Del­hi have sug­gest­ed the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion is not as com­mit­ted to U.S.-India rela­tions as its pre­de­ces­sors were,” she said. “Oth­er crit­ics assert that this admin­is­tra­tion sees India sole­ly through the lens of Afghanistan and Pak­istan. Still oth­ers think that the absence of high-pro­file, head­line-grab­bing deals and accom­plish­ments over the last 18 months sug­gests that we don’t view this rela­tion­ship as impor­tant.”

The crit­ics are wrong, she said.

“The U.S.-India rela­tion­ship is not built on, and can­not be sus­tained on, grand ges­tures or brief moments of cri­sis,” the under­sec­re­tary said. “This bond is ground­ed in com­mon demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues and con­verg­ing inter­ests that make India and U.S. nat­ur­al part­ners. The U.S. and India have an over­ar­ch­ing shared inter­est in pro­mot­ing glob­al sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty.”

The two nations are mar­itime coun­tries that depend on free pas­sage of the seas, and India and the Unit­ed States work togeth­er to ensure mar­itime secu­ri­ty, Flournoy said. Both coun­tries also have an abid­ing inter­est in coun­ter­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass destruc­tion and oth­er dan­ger­ous high tech­nolo­gies, she added.

Both nations also are com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing glob­al sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty, Flournoy said. India is a good part­ner in peace­keep­ing efforts around the globe and with­in Asia, she not­ed, and both nations are com­mit­ted to the long-term sta­bil­i­ty and recon­struc­tion of Afghanistan.

“We know as the U.S. mis­sion in Afghanistan evolves, we must con­tin­ue to pro­vide robust sup­port for Afghan sta­bil­i­ty, gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment,” Flournoy said. “India is play­ing a pos­i­tive role in Afghanistan’s eco­nom­ic and social devel­op­ment and we know that help will con­tin­ue.”

U.S.-Indian defense rela­tions have evolved from sole­ly mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary links into a more com­pre­hen­sive fab­ric, Flournoy said, in a rela­tion­ship that encom­pass­es dia­logues, exer­cis­es, defense sales and prac­ti­cal coop­er­a­tion.

At the apex of the U.S.-India defense rela­tion­ship is the Defense Pol­i­cy Group, which Flournoy will co-chair in the fall. The group allows both coun­tries to plan fur­ther engage­ments, air con­cerns and exchange views on strate­gic issues.

“We also have dia­logues that dis­cuss our defense trade, ser­vice-to-ser­vice coop­er­a­tion [and] tech­ni­cal coop­er­a­tion, and a group ded­i­cat­ed to devel­op­ing and ensur­ing pro­ce­dures for keep­ing our tech­nolo­gies secure,” she said. “The growth and com­pre­hen­sive­ness of this rela­tion­ship is noth­ing short of remark­able. My Indi­an coun­ter­parts now tell me that their defense and secu­ri­ty rela­tions with the Unit­ed States are as close as they are with any nation.”

Now the two coun­tries must sus­tain and expand upon the gains made to date, Flournoy said.

“Cement­ing a ful­ly formed bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship requires more than for­mal vis­its and high-lev­el dia­logues – it’s about day-in-day-out coop­er­a­tion at all lev­els,” she told the group. “Such inter­ac­tions may not make as many head­lines, but rou­tine con­tacts are in many ways the most impor­tant bilat­er­al busi­ness we con­duct.”

Defense equip­ment sales are anoth­er growth area for the part­ner­ship. “I am and will con­tin­ue to be a strong advo­cate of U.S. solu­tions for India’s defense needs,” Flournoy said. “U.S. com­pa­nies are eager to work with India as the Indi­an mil­i­tary con­tin­ues to mod­ern­ize.”

Two Amer­i­can com­pa­nies are among the lead­ing com­peti­tors for a $10 bil­lion sale of 126 advanced fight­er air­craft to the Indi­an air force, Flournoy said. “We are also look­ing at future sales of the C‑17 air­craft as anoth­er exam­ple of near term defense sales,” she added.

Flournoy stressed that the Defense Depart­ment does not view these sales as mere com­mer­cial trans­ac­tions. “We under­stand that India is mak­ing a strate­gic as well as an eco­nom­ic choice when it makes defense acqui­si­tions,” she explained. “Obvi­ous­ly, the com­mer­cial ben­e­fits of defense sales to the U.S. econ­o­my can’t be denied, but from a [Defense Depart­ment] per­spec­tive, these sales are even more impor­tant in build­ing a strate­gic part­ner­ship that will allow both our coun­tries to coop­er­ate more effec­tive­ly to pro­tect our mutu­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests in the future.

“Whether the sce­nario involves human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, coun­tert­er­ror­ism coop­er­a­tion or mar­itime secu­ri­ty activ­i­ties,” she con­tin­ued, “hav­ing com­mon equip­ment will allow more seam­less coop­er­a­tion.”

India is seek­ing to build its own indige­nous defense indus­try, and is look­ing for the best tech­nolo­gies to use in its defense sec­tor, Flournoy said. The Unit­ed States is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing India with top-of-the-line tech­nol­o­gy, and has backed up its com­mit­ment by approv­ing the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of licens­es request­ed last year, she added.

Flournoy point­ed out that Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates has made export con­trol reform a key pri­or­i­ty, cit­ing the stream­lin­ing and mod­ern­iz­ing of the U.S. export con­trol sys­tem as a nation­al secu­ri­ty pri­or­i­ty that affects the nation’s abil­i­ty to build and sus­tain key part­ner­ships.

India and the Unit­ed States will explore ways to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruc­tion through mar­itime coop­er­a­tion, dia­logue, and iden­ti­fy­ing new tech­nolo­gies to com­bat this threat, Flournoy said.

“We will con­tin­ue to build on our expe­ri­ence work­ing togeth­er on dis­as­ter assis­tance and human­i­tar­i­an relief, and devel­op pro­ce­dures to facil­i­tate more seam­less coop­er­a­tion in future con­tin­gen­cies,” the under­sec­re­tary said. “We will look at ways in which, togeth­er, we can bet­ter secure the glob­al com­mons by expand­ing our already robust coop­er­a­tion in air, space, cyber­space and mar­itime ini­tia­tives.”

The Unit­ed States also is inter­est­ed in India’s emer­gence as a region­al pow­er, Flournoy said. “The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion is com­mit­ted to strength­en­ing region­al part­ner­ships, to build an inter­na­tion­al sys­tem capa­ble of address­ing the chal­lenges that have no respect for bor­ders,” she said. “In Asia, this means it no longer makes sense to dis­cuss this increas­ing­ly inter­con­nect­ed region in terms of East Asian secu­ri­ty, or South Asian secu­ri­ty.”

India’s rela­tion­ship with Chi­na is vital­ly impor­tant to the health of the region and the globe, the under­sec­re­tary told the group.

“A safer, more secure India that is clos­er to the Unit­ed States should not be seen a threat to Chi­na, and vice ver­sa,” she said. “Indeed, all three coun­tries play an impor­tant role in region­al sta­bil­i­ty. The Unit­ed States rec­og­nizes and wel­comes the grow­ing coop­er­a­tion between India and Chi­na on secu­ri­ty affairs in recent years. And both India and the Unit­ed States seek a clos­er rela­tion­ship with Chi­na, while encour­ag­ing Bei­jing to be more trans­par­ent about its mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties and inten­tions.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)